Yesterday, I received the worst political fundraising message I can remember ever having received. It wasn’t outlandishly bad, like a message from a Republican politician telling me that I have to stand up for marriage by blocking other people from getting married. This message’s flaws were more subtle, and yet more devastating, because they represent an attitude about politics that doesn’t even have enough integrity to stand for bad ideas.
This message told me, straight to my face, that ideas don’t matter, and that I only matter to the degree that I allow myself to be used.
The message came from Robby Mook, of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and it told me of “unsettling news”. It delivered unsettling news to me, all right, but not the sort Mook expected me to take away.
The message started, “Today, Mitt Romney is holding a $50,000-a-head fundraiser in the Hamptons with one of the Big Oil billionaire Koch Brothers. They’ll have a lot to celebrate together: Romney’s campaign brought in a whopping $100 million in June and the Kochs have raised millions more for their outside groups.”
That sounds scary. $50,000 per head! Golly.
Of course, I also know that Barack Obama has been holding big fundraisers with about the same price per head. Does Robby Mook really think that I’m ignorant of that? What kind of idiot does he take me for?
He thinks I’m an idiot with money to spare, apparently. Mook’s message continues: “If Mitt and his SuperPAC backers can bury us under a wave of corporate special interest cash right now, we will lose in November.
We need you right now.
If everyone who’s been waiting to give pitches in $3 or more today we can start closing the gap right now. Please do your part — make a donation of $3 or more right now.”
Here’s the essential argument that Robby Mook’s message is making… with the unstated premises included:
1. Mitt Romney is gathering a lot of money.
2. Money is the way that elections are won. There are no other ways to win elections besides spending more money than the competition.
3. The Democrats want to win the election.
4. Therefore, the Democrats need money.
5. Therefore, when I say the Democrats need you, what I mean is that the Democrats need your money.
6. And so, you see, that the Democratic Party looks at liberal voters as nothing more than potential sources of money… also known as suckers.
It’s an offensive, demoralizing message. Robby Mook completely accepts the idea that it’s money, not ideas, that win an election. What’s more, Mook is broadcasting that idea out to voters, saying in effect, that we all should just forget about the ideals that we believe in, because what really matters is cash.
Robby Mook is telling voters that they aren’t powerful, that they aren’t meaningful, and that what they have to give of themselves through their social networks and activism isn’t worth anything.
Never, anywhere in Mook’s email, is there a single sentence telling me what the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plans to do with the money that people donate to it. Never does Mook say anything about why it matters that President Obama wins a second term in office. He doesn’t explain what makes Obama different from Romney, or what Obama would do differently from Romney.
Mook begs like a compulsive gambler, saying that his competition has upped the ante, and he needs some cash to stay in the game. It’s a transparently amoral request that abuses the pretense of a social connection. Instead of asking for more money to stay in the game, Mook and the Democratic Party ought to be asking themselves why they’re playing the game. They ought to be challenging the game of politics purchased with cash.
If Barack Obama hadn’t spent his first term in office acting like a Republican, and supporting the worst policies of George W. Bush, he wouldn’t need more money than Mitt Romney to win re-election. By telling me that it’s only my money that matters – no citizenship required, Mook is confirming my worst fears about what the Democratic Party has become.
I’m saying this as someone who was once a member of my state’s Democratic Party Committee. I once believed that the best way to reform politics was to make the Democratic Party stronger. I gave them money – a good portion of my income at the time.
And then, I saw how the Democratic Party spent that money: It promoted its own power without following through on the progressive values that I had believed the Democratic Party stood for. Cycle after cycle, I watched the Democrats keep on saying that, yes, the issues would come to center stage, but after the next election. If the Democrats could only win the next election, then they would deliver…
Robby Mook’s message reminds me of one of the lessons I gained through my disillusionment with the Democratic Party: Winning elections doesn’t matter if none of the candidates are standing up for the ideas that are important.
Now, in 2012, it just so happens that there is a presidential candidate who is standing up for the ideas that are important. That candidate is not Mitt Romney.
That candidate isn’t Barack Obama, either. The policy differences between Romney and Obama are rather small.
The only presidential candidate who is standing up for the ideas that are important in this historical moment is the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein.
No, I’m not sending Jill Stein money. Stein won’t win this election with money. The only way that Jill Stein is going to win this election is if American voters decide to pay attention to the details of the political process, and educate themselves about the issues, rather than relying on cable TV news entertainment shows for information.
Yes, that makes it a longshot for Stein to win. However, even though my vote will likely be lost in a sea of ballots cast by people who feel obliged to support either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, and never anything else, I’m willing to speak out in favor of what I actually believe, rather than the best candidate that money can buy.
No thank you, Robby Mook. I won’t give you three cents. It’s time to walk away from the table.